NEW YORK: Jitters in the US over Ebola were underlined Friday after an air passenger’s joke sparked a full-on alert, while another plane was quarantined at Las Vegas airport because someone vomited onboard.
In the joke incident, a Hazmat (hazardous materials) team in blue suits boarded a US Airways Flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.
A passenger was reported to have said: “Hey, I’ve got Ebola, you’re screwed.”
After the flight reached its destination, a member of the cabin crew requested all passengers sit down before the Hazmat squad arrived.
“It’s going to look worse than it is,” the attendant spoke over the intercom as she sought to calm nerves.
“I’ve done this for 36 years. I think the man that has said this is an idiot,” she added.
Footage of the incident went viral on the Internet, and was viewed nearly 3.3 million times by late afternoon Friday since it was uploaded to YouTube.
The male passenger could be overheard on the video telling the Hazmat team, “I was just kidding” and “I ain’t from Africa,” as he was escorted off the aircraft.
A US Airways spokeswoman told AFP that the incident delayed disembarkation of the aircraft. Airline officials were unable to estimate how much money the episode may have cost.
Meanwhile in Las Vegas on Friday, a Delta plane from New York was quarantined at the arrivals gate after a passenger who had reportedly traveled to Africa vomited onboard.
At least one passenger live tweeted the incident, which was initially reported to involve two passengers being taken off because of suspected contact with people infected with the deadly Ebola virus.
Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and the Southern Nevada Health District joined firefighters to test the passenger while all of the other passengers remained on board.
“After a thorough assessment, it has been determined that the affected passenger does not meet the criteria for Ebola,” said a statement from McCarran International Airport.
The first death from Ebola on US soil in Texas on Wednesday fanned concern in the United States where major cities are ramping up efforts to prevent an American outbreak of the disease.
Five US international airports are to start new screening measures of passengers arriving from West Africa, beginning with JFK in New York on Saturday.